Help! Have you got to talk to someone, anyone – and you'd rather run off a cliff into a lava-filled volcano instead? You're not alone. Here's how to deal.
You’re queen of the LOLs on Twitter, racking up likes and retweets like nobody’s business but when it comes to IRL interactions, it all goes a bit… wrong.
Putting yourself out there in social situations is totally different to the quick-fire interactions we engage in on social media. There, we can drop in and out of conversations at will, log off if it all gets a bit heavy or awkward and best of all, we’re doing the lot from the comfort of our couches. Winner.
But sometimes chatting face to face can be a stress test too far.
If talking to people when you’re out socially is something you struggle with, you’re not alone. Social anxiety affects around 13.7 percent of Irish adults, or one in eight, according to Social Anxiety Ireland, and while there are a myriad of symptoms, some of them include worry about looking anxious, avoiding situations where you may be the centre of attention and avoiding talking to others out of embarrassment.
Added to that is the fear that because we live in an always-on world that has us glued to our screens 24/7, lots of us have lost the art of smalltalk. That’s informal chit-chat about inconsequential matters, FYI, and according to Natasha Fennell, a Director of Stillwater Communications which offers services such as presentation skills training, media training and job interview training, it’s an essential life skill.
“Small talk is simply finding that point of connection with someone that is the start of a conversation,” she explains. And it’s not as hard as it sounds, either. “A great place to start is to comment on the outfit that the person you’re talking to is wearing. Admire their hair, jewellery or whatever you genuinely think looks well. Or talk about the venue where the party is taking place. The conversation should take off from there.”
Okay, so far, so good. To finesse your skills further, you’ve got to learn how to move the conversation on once you’ve gotten to the end of your initial, “grand weather we’re having/I love your shoes/this is a yummy canape/isn’t that a gorgeous looking light fitting?” Natasha, a little help? “Moving on to another topic should then happen naturally.” What does she suggest? “Something relevant about work, what plans you have coming up, or the current Netflix show you’re watching. Conversation should flow naturally unless you’re unlucky to be stuck with someone who has nothing to say at all.”
Now that you’ve aced small talk #101, what can you do when things aren’t going quite so well in a chat-based situation, and sweaty dread is creeping up your spine? “If you’re nervous, just ask the person you’re talking to a lot of questions about themselves. It takes the attention away from you and they will feel like they’re having a great chat,” Natasha advises.
On that note, the whole me-me-me smartphone obsession has brought on a breed of people who can only talk about themselves and nothing else. What do you do in that scenario? “If you’re bored and have run out of things to say either pull someone you know into the conversation or simply excuse yourself and go to the ladies… Even if you don’t really want to,” she says. Sounds like a plan.
This article first appeared in STELLAR’s December issue. Our January/February issue is on shelves now!